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Dear Tyrese,

I don’t typically condone open letters from a non-famous person (me) to a famous person (you). At best, they’re a writer’s ploy to begin a public conversation. At worst, they’re just plain silly and a cop-out. The writer of the open letter gets to grandstand for everyone to see, but “everyone” usually includes only a few hundred Facebook friends and certainly doesn’t include the addressee (who, in this case, is you, Tyrese).

But I’m going against my better judgment and writing one because I have to get something off of my chest. 

I actually like you, Tyrese. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan, but I’m not not a fan. I’ve long admired your skin. It’s impeccable. I mean, I’d ask you what products you use, but I suspect it’s more genetics than any dermatological additive. And you’ve always struck me as “a nice young man,” as my daddy would say.

I say “young man,” but you and I are practically the same age.

I remember when your McDonald’s commercial came out–oh, wait. I just Googled it. It was Coca-Cola–not McDonald’s. But anyway, that was you: pretty skin and straight white teeth, singing to yourself with those headphones on while riding a city bus. You looked like a young man who was going places. I mean, you were literally going places because you were on a bus, but you looked like you had “potential.” I dislike the word “potential,” but I’ll use it here because it makes the point that there was a brightness about you that pointed to an even brighter future.

Here we are at your bright future (hit songs, blockbuster movie franchise), and I wish you well from afar.

But I want you to know that you pissed me off the other day.

It was something you posted on your Instagram page last week.

It began with, “Ladies, when a man is focused on work, don’t stress him.” Then you went on to speak on behalf of hard-working, ambitious men everywhere, suggesting that ambitious men (or men with “vision,” as you put it) are unfairly hounded by the manipulative and needy women who claim to love them. Your bottom line was basically this: The best way to love an ambitious man is to leave him the hell alone and get over yourself, ladies.

Is that right?

When I first started reading your post, it didn’t bother me. But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t nodding along in agreement either. Still, there was no skin off my back. I couldn’t begin to identify as one of the “ladies” you were addressing.  I don’t see myself as the kind of woman who will check a guy or “slap his hand over small stuff,” as you said. That kind of nagging and keeping-in-check behavior is for women who take their relationships a lot more seriously than I do. You were describing women who are a lot more high-strung and high-maintenance than I am in relationships.

I wouldn’t say I’m low-maintenance. I’m more shady or faux high-maintenance. (Not sure what that means? Well, let’s just say, Tyrese, that if you date me, it will go like this: I will claim to be low-maintenance and to have no expectations until…well, I actually have a small expectation or two or three; and then my two or three small expectations will freak you out and your getting freaked out will annoy the sh*t out of me; I’ll just say f**k it and delete your number, never talking to you again. Stop. Repeat with a new guy. Ad infinitum.)

So, you see, Tyrese, I’m not the kind of girl who will stand in the doorway long enough to kiss you goodbye the next morning (or the same damn night), let alone one who will stand in between you and your dreams.

But there was something you said that got under my skin, Tyrese. If you ask me, it was plain ol’ reductive ridiculousness: “His work takes away from the attention you want, so you make it about you.”

Repeat: “You make it about you.”

I yelled at you in my head when I read that:

Hell yeah, I make it about me! And you make it about you! So now what?! What are we both supposed to make it about? You?! Get the f**k outta here with that sh*t.

Seriously, Tyrese. I call bullsh*t. I wish an ambitious man would have the nerve to chastise me for not being all about him if I spoke up about something I needed. I wouldn’t blame him for being all about himself, but I’d expect him to respect my decision to think about my best interests, too. Of course, the goal in a relationship is that “I make it about me, you make it about you, and together we make it about we.” But I think too many folks believe the only way to get to “we” is for one person to give up his or her self-advocacy in the relationship.

No. No. No. I will always make it about me. It must be about me. And maybe that’s why I’m not in a relationship right now. Maybe that’s the only child part of me talking.

There is never, ever anything wrong with someone making it about himself or herself in a relationship. I support the ambitious dude making it about himself, and I support the “What about me? What about us?” chick in his life making it about what she wants, too.

Do I support selfishness in relationships? Not exactly. But I don’t think self-advocacy and selfishness are the same things. My partner will need to be OK hearing about my needs and goals in the same way that I will need to be OK hearing about his. And chasing a dream doesn’t excuse you from fulfilling your partner’s needs in a relationship.

I understand that there are ups and downs and blah, blah, blah. I get it. It’s not going to be sunshine, long-stemmed roses, and royal adoration all of the time. That’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t look for the “treat your lady like a queen” thing from black men any more than I want them to look for “the selfless black woman” quotient in me.

And the selflessness quotient is really what you were getting at with that whole “you make it about you” statement, wasn’t it, Tyrese? That’s the prize y’all menfolk want, yes? The martyr. The ride or die chick. The Bonnie.

But consider our beloved Cookie, who’s probably the biggest “ride or die” chick on television. If she teaches us one thing, it’s this: Selflessness isn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, we womenfolk wanna get ours.

I know that’s an earful, Tyrese. Not that you’ll even read this. But I had to say something.

I shuddered at the thought that a woman might read your Instagram page and not speak up in a lopsided relationship that isn’t adequately serving her. I shuddered at the thought of a man lambasting his girlfriend with “you make it about you” remarks, causing that woman to feel ashamed for standing up for her needs.

I shuddered reading that post, Tyrese. I shuddered, and yes, I made it about me. 

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